tagNovels and NovellasEqual Shares Ch. 07

Equal Shares Ch. 07


Elizabeth was, of course, all over him on Tuesday morning, wanting to know how the dance lesson had gone.

"Well, thank you, Elizabeth. I actually enjoyed it."

"Good. So, what's it like? What did you do?"

So, Stan briefly described the hall, and told her that they'd begun learning the Foxtrot.

"Ah, yes. My mum and dad used to do all of those. She tried to teach me once, but I never really got it. I was more into rock'n'roll," she said.

Then, "Did you meet anyone?" she asked

"Well, I met Yves and Belinda, the teachers. They're wonderful, you should see them dance together. Belinda must have been one hell of a catch when she was younger, she's still a real beauty. Yves is a foreigner, comes from Spain or somewhere, I can't quite make out where. Strange accent. But oh, God, can those two dance!"

Elizabeth said, "I'm glad to see they made an impression on you." After a moment, she prodded, "Anyone else?"

The look was innocent, the question anything but. Stan knew what she was driving at. He thought briefly of Pamela, but dismissed the idea – he was far too old. "No, not really. There were about seven of us, all beginner level, although I was the only one who started last night."

"So, did you talk to them?"

Again, Stan thought of Pamela.

"No, not really. Just chit-chat," he said, finally.

Elizabeth regarded him over their desks for a moment. Finally, she said,

"Well, it all has to start somewhere. I'm glad you enjoyed yourself. Now..." and they began discussion of work.

- - - - - - - - - -

Stan was a little surprised by Denise's first words when they met later that afternoon.

"I've just booked my holiday!" she said, obviously excited.

"There was me thinking you'd ask about my dance lesson!" he teased.

"Oh! Sorry. I forgot, actually. Over the 'net this lunchtime I managed to book a fortnight in Ibiza, starting this Thursday, and I can't wait," she said in a rush. "But tell me about the lesson. How are Yves and Belinda?"

Stan told her they were well, and that Belinda had remembered her. He neglected to mention what she'd said about Raoul though!

Denise told him that she'd have to miss their weekly date, "I'll have a bit of packing to do, and I want to get some sleep. I have to be at the airport early!"

"Okay. Well, you can tell me all about it when you get back. When is that?" he asked.

"I get back in the UK on Thursday the seventeenth, " she replied, "but I'm off work that Friday as well. I expect I'll be absolutely knackered."

"Yes, I've heard that holidays in Ibiza can be tiring," Stan said, with a little mockery.

Denise just looked at him, giggled and said, "You're just jealous!"

Stan said, seriously, "No, not really Denise. You're a grown up woman and if you want to party on down all week then it's up to you. Just, please, be careful. I've heard what can happen there."

Denise smiled, took his hand a moment, and said, "You're a good, caring man Stan. Actually, I expect I'll spend the days lying on the beach or next to the hotel pool, and the nights in bed... alone, before you say any more!" She grinned, squeezed his hand a little and then let go.

"I'll ring you here at work on the Friday after I get home, Stan. See you later."

- - - - - - - - - -

Wednesday night came. Stan felt lost, without anything definite to do. He thought of going to the pub on his own for a moment, but discarded the idea as soon as it formed. Drinking alone was bad enough. Drinking expensive soft drinks in a bar full of strangers alone was intolerable.

He got a can of beer out of the refrigerator, switched on the TV and started hunting through the channels. Half an hour later he switched it off again. He picked up a book – John Keegan's The Mask of Command – and began reading the author's commentary on Wellington.

He woke up with a start. The clock on the wall said eleven fifteen. He'd barely managed a dozen pages, and could remember none of it. Stan went to bed feeling the evening had disappeared out from under him, and he wasn't sure whether to feel good or bad about it.

Before going to sleep he idly thought of Denise. He hoped she'd enjoy her holiday. She deserved to, for she was a good friend.

- - - - - - - - - -

Even though Denise and Stan rarely spoke a lot during a normal working day, Stan felt her absence acutely for the next two days. However, he was busy and took his mind off the redhead by applying himself to his work.

The first preproduction samples of Anne's chip were due in from Shucor next week. Stan was reviewing the measurements from the wafer manufacturer and the subcontractor's assembly data. All seemed fine, everything was within specification, but something nagged at him. He couldn't place it, but something was off.

"Bob, have you got a minute?" he finally asked his boss. The Quality Manager indicated that he did, so Stan sat in Bob's 'visitor's chair' and explained,

"I've been looking at the data we got from Shucor about Anne's chip. Everything is within their specification, and Anne assured us all at the meeting that it would be okay, but there's something not right. I can't put my finger on it, but I've got a feeling. Can I take some time and try to chase it down?"

Shucor, the company actually making Anne's device, was reputable but well known within The Firm for being a little difficult to deal with. If something was pointed out to them as being wrong, they'd never admit it, but it would never happen again. First, of course, you had to show what was wrong, and getting their cooperation was, well, difficult. Stan had done this before and had made a good call saving The Firm thousands, so Bob was inclined to trust his subordinate.

Since Stan was up to date on all the routine work, his boss simply said, "Sure. Just keep me up to speed," and Stan returned to his desk.

He went back to checking the data from Shucor.

- - - - - - - - - -

By Friday evening Stan was almost convinced he'd imagined the problem, and told Bob that he thought he'd probably made a mistake. Bob simply shrugged, said "Win some, lose some, Stan. Don't worry too much. I'll see you on Monday, you can write up what you did or didn't find and we'll wait for the devices. They're due in on Wednesday."

Stan went home and spent a simple weekend doing household chores and relaxing. On Sunday morning he woke up to blazing sunshine and high temperatures, so he decided to walk into town and idle-away some time there. It was a leisurely half-hour walk, most of the way shaded by the trees planted along The Avenue, the main road from his area towards the High Street.

He had a late breakfast at one of the café's and wandered around until lunchtime. He found himself at Iorio's and decided that, since he'd never been there before but had heard Denise talk about it, he'd try it.

Stan got a double espresso and then checked the menu. He wasn't very hungry, so he just had an Italian-style sausage and pepper sandwich, which he enjoyed with a bottle of mineral water. The place was quiet, clean and the guy behind the counter was friendly. Stan thought he'd enjoy going there more often.

Stan walked home, savouring the day. Brilliant blue skies, high temperatures and, for a change, no chance of rain. All these things had combined to make for a perfect Sunday.

Arriving home, Stan hung up his keys and put his sunglasses down on the table beside the door. He wandered into the kitchen and got a mineral water out of the refrigerator, then made his way into the living room.

In the local music store, near the check-out counter, he'd found a CD of instrumentals intended for ballroom dancing as a discounted item and bought it on impulse. He played it, amused that they'd managed to turn the 'Muppet Show' theme into a Quickstep dance song. Also on the CD was a version of 'Me and My Shadow' which was intended as a Foxtrot and Stan made himself laugh out loud attempting to dance to it. It simply wasn't the same feeling without a partner, you could do the steps but there was no tactile feedback for when you were about to go wrong – so he went wrong. Often.

"I guess I need more practice than one lesson!" he told himself, with a smirk.

For no apparent reason he felt Caron's eyes on him, and his mood fell instantly. He told her silently, 'We should have done this, sweetheart. Like a lot of things we never got around to doing, we just ran out of time.'

Stan turned off the music, put the CD away and moped for the rest of the day.

- - - - - - - - - -

Stan had been anticipating the dance class on the Monday but, once again, on the drive there he started to doubt himself. He tried to shake it off, telling himself that the dancing wasn't as hard as he'd thought it would be and that he looked forward to meeting Belinda and Yves again.

As he drove, he concluded that meeting those two again really was something he was looking forward to. He grinned, thinking,

'Then there's always Pamela. Sweet, pretty and smart. It's a shame she's young enough to be my daughter!'

Caron and Stan had never had children. It had never been an issue between them. Caron had simply said, early on when they were just beginning to date, that she didn't want children for herself, she much preferred other people's kids.

Stan could hear her now, saying, 'After all, Stan, it means I can give all my love to you!'

She had. Their love had been intense. Caron had been asked, while the two of them were on a trip to celebrate their twentieth anniversary, if they were newlyweds, and they were flattered by the mistaken observation and very happy. The old lady who'd asked the question congratulated them on their anniversary and said it was wonderful to meet a couple who were so obviously in love. Stan had told her that the only girl he'd ever loved had been Caron, and that he couldn't ever see that changing. His reward was a passionate kiss from his Welsh-Irish love.

As always, thoughts of his beloved Caron made him morose and the rest of the journey was a mechanical exercise. It was only when he reached the old school that he pulled himself back to the present. He drew up outside, hunting for a parking space, eventually finding one just around a corner, a bit further than last time. Getting out of the car, he stood for a moment. He felt sure Caron gave her blessing to this. He nodded, said a quiet "Thank you darling," and went to the old school entrance.

This time it was Yves' turn to do the 'meet and greet' job at the door. He said to Stan,

"Ah, Mr. Hinch. Yes, Stan, I remember. I'm pleased you came back after the ordeal of your first lesson!" He winked after a moment, showing Stan that he was teasing.

"Go on in and chat with the others. If you should see my wife, please ask her if I could borrow her for a moment?"

Stan smiled, and said he would. Then his curiosity became too much, and he asked Yves,

"Where does that accent come from? I can't make out if it's Spanish or what? And a name like Yves sounds French."

"Ah! I am an Euskaldunak, what you would call a Basque. I actually hold a Spanish passport as well as a British one, but my name comes from my mother's family and they were technically French. So I'm a bit of a mongrel, yes?"

"Ignore him, he's much more than a bit of a mongrel!" came the affectionate but crystal clear voice of Belinda, from the doorway into the main hall. "It's nearly time to start, Yves." She continued.

"Yes, Bel. But can I have you for a moment?"

Stan and Belinda swapped "Hellos" as they passed in the corridor, and Stan moved into the hall.

- - - - - - - - - -

He found that he was nearly the last there. He was pleased to see Pamela had arrived, but, as usual, he stood alone against the wall.

One of the guys who'd been at the previous week's lesson saw him and approached.

"Hi, Stan!" he said. Stan couldn't for the life of him recover the guy's name, so he merely said "Hi!" in return.

"I hope you've got your protective shoes on?" the other asked.

"I told someone I was going to be doing this, and that she ought to invest in a company that made them," Stan, recalling last week's conversation with Elizabeth, laughed.

"Well I've only been here twice before, but believe me Carol over there," indicating a larger woman in a pink, full dress, "has got big, heavy feet. I swear I had bruises when I left here last time."

Stan reflected that he'd almost crushed a few toes himself on his first lesson.

"How many times has she been here before, er...?" Stan was stuck. He still couldn't remember the name.

A moment or two passed, then he was put out of his misery...

"Tom, Tom Orbison. It's nice to have made an impression!"

"Look, I'm really very sorry, I don't have a head for names..."

"Don't worry about it. Now, what I want to know is who I have to pay around here for a dance with that sweet little thing!"

Stan looked. Tom was clearly meaning Pamela. Stan didn't know what to say at all.

"I suppose I will just have to ask her!" said Tom, and he winked at Stan, then walked over to Pamela. Stan couldn't hear the details of the negotiation, but when he stayed with the girl, it was clear he hadn't been told "No!"

- - - - - - - - - -

"Good evening, everyone. I'm very glad you could all make it again tonight. Can we all get ready please?" called Yves from the sound machine.

"Yes, please, everyone," amplified Belinda, standing in the open area that was the dance floor. "This week we'll practice the Foxtrot some more, so everyone please select your partner. James, I'm very much afraid that you've drawn the short straw."

She was looking at a short, heavyset man in his fifties.

Impishly Belinda continued, "You get me." James didn't look too upset.

Yves and Belinda calling them all together for the beginning of the lesson interrupted Stan's study of the pair. Stan found himself paired with Carol, and wondered if they'd both get bruised feet.

As the lesson progressed he found that Carol was much better than Tom had suggested. He asked her,

"How many lessons have you had so far?"

"Oh, this is only my third," came the reply. "I needed to do something to get exercise, and since I can't stand dogs, I thought of dancing instead."

"Hmm?" Stan didn't make the connection at first.

"You see, a friend had suggested I get a dog, as the walking would be good for me. But I'm a cat person, I have three of the little darlings. So a dog wasn't going to work."

Now Stan 'Got It'.

Conversation stopped while they had more instruction from Belinda. Stan found he had to concentrate hard to make sure he was doing what she told them, but once again found it easier as the lesson wore on.

- - - - - - - - - -

During the break period Tom queued behind Stan for drinks, and whispered in his ear, "God, I love this! I wonder if I can persuade Pam to let me get my hands on more of her!" Stan turned, a little shocked, to find a smirk on the other's face.

"What? You never thought of it?" Tom asked, seeing his expression. "She's young, pretty, available," with a waggle of the eyebrows, "and mine at the moment!"

Stan didn't answer. He merely turned back to the drinks, grabbed a bottle of mineral water and walked away to where Carol was standing, alone.

"I don't much like that gentleman," she told Stan.

"I'm not fond of him either," returned Stan, "He seems to like Pamela, though."

"Well, of course he likes her! She's young... and pretty. If she hasn't been chatted up by all the guys here at least once I'd be surprised!"

Stan looked at Carol. It was clear that she was jealous of the attention being paid to Pamela by Tom. Stan couldn't work that out at all in light of what she had told him. She said that she didn't like the guy, but she was jealous over seeing him with Pamela?

It was an emotion Stan just never felt. How could a body feel that way about someone they didn't trust? Once Stan felt that he trusted someone, he felt no jealousy because he put full trust in that person. For him it was either/or, but no matter what, jealousy just didn't figure.

He just felt that some people were odd.

- - - - - - - - - -

Their proximity meant that for the second half of the lesson Stan once again found himself partnered with Carol. She did catch his toes once, apologising profusely, but Stan told her it was fair payback for the times he'd done it to her!

Before the end, Belinda partnered him briefly, commenting on his improvement. "You're still far too stiff, Stanley, and that's got to change, but you've definitely improved. Well done," she told him, before moving on to another man.

Once again, the lesson finished with a demonstration. Then, Yves told the group,

"Next week our subject will be the Quickstep. See you then, everyone!"

On the way home in the car, Stan considered Belinda's comment. Stiff? He thought he'd relaxed, although he'd been concentrating on the steps, sure enough, and on not stepping on her feet. She can't have meant...?

No. That hadn't been stiff for a while!

- - - - - - - - - -

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